Mike's Reviews > My Name is Red

My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk
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Jun 30, 2011

it was amazing
Recommended to Mike by: David Damrosch
Recommended for: Anyone
Read from June 18 to 29, 2011 , read count: 1

This book was fantastic; it deserves an unqualified "5".

I head about this book on the PBS program "An Invitation to World Literature" and was intrigued by the description of it and by the fact that it was modern and the living author was brought into the program. Since I knew other books in the series such as "The Odyssey", "The Epic of Gilgamesh", "The 1000 and One Nights", and "Candide" I thought it must be very good indeed. Often times such high expectations lead to a disappointment in the actual reading. I am happy to report that "My Name is Red" avoid such a fate.

There are some rare books that I as soon as I finish them I think about how the next time I read them I will be able to savor more of the story; its nuances, its details and off-center plots and tidbits. I was anticipating the next reading of this book even while I was only two-thirds of the way through it. It is an incredibly unorthodox book in organization and "voice", but at the same time a perfect tale of mystery, human feelings and history. Where else can you find a book that has a talking dog illustration, not to mention a coin or a color? I kept thinking that the word "lavish" would be one way to describe it. And it is lavish - it has deep passionate descriptions of illustration (aka Eastern painting) and art. Long and highly specific passages bring to life the craftsmanship and skill that went into legendary books created during the first 1,000 years of Islam.

Whether these books exist in whole or in part today does not matter. Whether the author is or is not an artistic himself does not matter. Indeed, he could have made them up completely; it does not matter. Ultimately it is only the story and how it draws us in and holds our attention that matters to the reader. I, for one, hope that much of what he presents is based in solid historical fact. To my mind that would make the tale even more poignant and compelling. But if every word was make-believe, as we once thought the Iliad was, would not diminish my respect and admiration for Mr. Pamuk. It might even increase them.

I know that not everyone will share my rating this book as a superlative work. I will look at the aggregate rankings after posting this "review". Sometimes I am right there with the averages, this time I can image other people not "getting it" and giving threes or even twos. For those people I would encourage them to give it a second chance. For every one else, I urge you to get a copy and start reading.

In the theme of "what have I learned from this book", I must admit that I knew that Western artists had developed the theories and techniques that created realistic portraiture and perspective. I also knew that early art (Western or Eastern) was "flatter" and resembled Chinese painting and illustrations (which I had become more familiar with during the past 15 years or so). What I did not put together (no matter how logical it is) was how Chinese painting and methods moved into neighboring areas and then into the "core" of Islamic civilization. Sometimes two plus two just does not compute.

Likewise, the ways in which Islamic artists created their own forms and format (the high horizon and drawing what Allah sees, not the "real" thing) were new and very interesting to me. (I am trusting here in the research and historical accuracy of the author. At least the "Chronology" gives weight to my belief in him.) I may not seek out a book on Miniaturists or their works any time soon, but it is a very colorful topic.

NB: I carried this book out to Wales on my last business trip and started it on the flight back (after completing two other books despite the 16-18 hour days). I have finished it (and one more if my luck holds) before flying off again. Haven't decided what's making the three week trip, yet. But if I can be ensnared so thoroughly while completely exhausted, then any normal person (book lover) will succumb by just opening the cover!
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Gregsamsa A fantastic review of one of my favorite novels. Well done!


Mike Thanks Gregsama. After I read it I returned the library copy and almost immediately snatched up a copy for that still-to-come and hugely looking forward to it re-read.


message 3: by Soheil (new)

Soheil Noori Who do you think was the killer?!


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